Neil Rubin

Machlokes / Controversy

Jewish World Review / Aug. 3, 1998 / 11 Menachem-Av, 5758

Portrait of a People?
Gotta just love 'dem Jews

By Neil Rubin

I HAVE A JOKING RESPONSE when life's many innocuous, trivial events disturb me -- like getting poor service in a restaurant, having the supermarket's shortest line closed when I approach, or getting stuck behind a bus in traffic. "That," I say a little too loudly, "is fragrant anti-Semitism! It stinks!"

I mockingly groan because anti-Semitism is basically irrelevant in this country. Now I understand why the Jewish radar to it buzzes 24-hours a day. But this is to the detriment of where our energy should be placed -- telling people, including non-Jews, that Judaism is exciting, relevant and invigorating.

I am quite aware that the Jewish hyper-sensitivity to anti-Semitism is because of the very real and truly horrible events of this century. The Holocaust is the center of it, but not everything. Anti-Semitic radio broadcasts were widely popular here just before World War II, while Henry Ford's newspapers printed the notorious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." (That forgery details the alleged plot of nefarious Jews to rule the world.)

And in America, through the 1960s, universities, neighborhoods and clubs didn't allow us in. Today, despite Supreme Court rulings striking down those formal policies, covert racism remains an occasional threat. The results of it all remain powerful. Last year the American Jewish Committee found 40 percent of American Jews think anti-Semitism is a "very serious problem"; another 55 percent said it's "somewhat of a problem." When asked if anti-Semitism would increase in the next few years, 39 percent said yes while 48 percent said it would stay the same.

Yes, there are still some vicious Jew-haters. But America not only no longer hates Jews, it's trying real hard to become more Jewish. Consider this:

Look, to say that Jews have been accepted into America's mainstream is a dramatic understatement. Jews are America's mainstream. As a group, we are political, financial and cultural heavyweights. Yet, we moan and groan more than the nice seniors at the JCC "Stretch And Kvetch" programs. Wouldn't we do better to steer some nervous energy towards talking positively about being Jewish? Must we keep playing the media's game of conflict and distress? Wouldn't money for newspaper advertisements do more if they occasionally didn't yell about Iraqi sanctions and read: "Guess what's right with Jewish life? Camps, day schools, Hebrew schools, helping the aged and working with the disabled!"

The problems of Jewish life -- discussed often here -- are very real. But there is a context. Every now and then, can't we just feel good about Jewish life in America?

JWR contributor Neil Rubin is Editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times.

7/16/98: Wishful thinking
6/23/98: Why Jews will continue to oppose school-choice
6/16/98: They keep coming (The growth of Atlanta Jewry)
5/27/98: What a show today!
Passover, 1998: Wait! You're not finished!
3/29/98: April means Passover ... and baseball

3/15/98: Has Jewish money run out?
3/9/98: Downsizing Jewish life
2/10/98: Film, Lies And Jewish Mothers
2/1/98: The news according to Sid
©1998, Neil Rubin